M10 Achilles Chelsea

The Achilles was a British variant of the open turret US M10 tank destroyer up armed with the superior British Ordnance QF 17 pounder (76.2 mm) anti-tank gun which replaced the original US 3 inch Gun.  The conversion involved installing a new gun mantle and a counterweight on the gun barrel.  The Achilles was assigned to British, Canadian and Polish anti-tank regiments and was first used in combat in Normandy 1944.  One particular British Achilles named “CHELSEA” for a short period of time was sort of famous, not with the British but with the Germans.

 

Achilles Chelsea of C Troop, 245 Battery, 62nd Anti-Tank Regiment, RA (Royal Artillery), British I Corps was knocked out southeast of Escoville (east of Caen) on 18 June 1944.  The symbol on the rear hull is the marking for the British I Corps.

CHELSEA-1

 

The 62nd Anti-Tank Regiment was formed in London in 1939 just before the start of war.  This Achilles was probably named after the Chelsea district in London or a woman.

CHELSEA-1A

 

This photo shows the other side of Achilles Chelsea and the knocked out PzKpfw IV in the foreground belonged to Panzer-regiment 22 of the 21st Panzer-Division.

CHELSEA-2

 

This is my close up.  The census number on the rear hull side is partially faded and cannot be read.

CHELSEA-3

 

Visible in the background is the knocked out Achilles Chelsea in the middle of the road.  In the foreground are two grenadiers with a MG42 belonging to II./Pz.Gren.Rgt 125 of the 21st Panzer-Division manning a position on the side of the Bréville-Escoville road facing north.

CHELSEA-4

 

 

In the spring of 1944, 245 and 248 batteries were equipped with M10 Achilles tank destroyers.  On the evening of June 5, 245 and 246 batteries sailed from Tilbury while 247 and 248 batteries sailed from Southampton and on D-Day the regiment arrived off the Juno invasion beach in Normandy.  The 246 and 248 batteries landed and were attached to the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the 3rd Canadian Division while the 245 and 247 batteries were initially held in reserve.  The LST (Landing Ship, Tank) carrying 245 battery beached at Graye-Sur-Mer on the morning of June 8 and its 12 Achilles moved up to a reserve position on the Reviers-Tailleville road.  Within 24 hours of landing, the 245 battery was transferred to the eastern sector of the beachhead to support the British 3rd Infantry and 6th Airborne Divisions.

 

CHELSEA-4A

 

 

The 51st Highland Infantry Division landed in Normandy on June 7 and spent a brief period supporting the 3rd Canadian Division.  From June 11, elements of the division had crossed the Orne river bridges and took over positions along the southern front east of Caen, and by the June 14 the Highlanders took control for all the area between Longueval and Escoville.  Southeast of Escoville, the 5/7 Gordon Highlanders of the 51st Division occupied a road triangle and made it a fortified strongpoint.  To the northeast of the road triangle is the Bois de Bavent (Wood of Drool) which was defended by the 5th Paratrooper Brigade of the British 6th Airborne Division.

On June 16, Panzer-Aufklarungs-Abteilung 21 of the 21st Panzer-Division attacked to take Escoville and then north to Herouvillette.  The strongly defended road triangle was a threat to the rear elements of the attack force that had advanced to Herouvillette and along with extremely heavy allied artillery fire to the west of the triangle, the Aufklarungs Abteilung was forced to withdraw from Herouvillette and Escoville.  German artillery fire aided the unit’s withdrawal and two armoured vehicles and a halftrack were lost.  From the south, II./Pz.Gren.Rgt 125 grenadiers renewed the attack on the road triangle and overran the foremost positions but the British counterattacked. Two PzKpfw IVs of Panzer-regiment 22 moved forward and were knocked out by a 6 pounder (57mm) AT gun.  The 5/7 Gordons were weakened and eventually forced to withdraw north of the triangle.  By midnight the road triangle was firmly occupied by the Germans.  At 1730 hours, II./Pz.Gren.Rgt 125 supported by Panzer-regiment 22 panzers attacked from the road triangle northwest towards Escoville.  A 17 pounder AT gun was knocked out but another 17 pounder AT gun knocked out two panzers and the attack stalled.  At 1930 and at 2030 hours, renewed attacks also failed. At the end of the day, I. Abteilung, Panzer-regiment 22 lost 6 panzers and 6 more were damaged.

There was no fighting on June 17 allowing both sides to regroup and replace their losses.  On June 18, II./Pz.Gren.Rgt 125 grenadiers supported by Panzer-regiment 22 panzers attacked along the weak boundary between the 51st Infantry Division and the 6th Airborne Division in the Bois de Bavent which resulted only in small gains where four British vehicles were destroyed.  The 5/7 Gordons supported by 245 Battery, 62nd Anti-Tank Regiment counterattacked and in this action Achilles Chelsea was knocked out near the northeast intersection of the road triangle.  On June 18, the 62nd Anti-Tank Regiment only listed a Lieutenant P. Loose as MIA.  The area became stable and quiet for the next four weeks with only local patrolling by both sides.

 

The circle on this map shows the approximate area where the Achilles and PzKpfw IV were knocked out.  The eastern road of the triangle which heads north was the boundary between the British 51st Infantry and 6th Airborne divisions.

CHELSEA-5

 

This aerial photo shows the road triangle southeast of Escoville.  The green arrow in the upper right corner is pointing north towards Le Mesnil and Bréville.  The green arrow on the left center top edge of the photo points towards Escoville.  The red circle is the northeast intersection of the road triangle.

CHELSEA-6

 

This is my close up of the aerial photo.  The red dot was the approximate location of where Achilles Chelsea and the PzKpfw IV was knocked out and the green dot was the location of the two grenadiers at the intersection MG post.  The vehicles cannot be seen due to the trees in that area covering the road.

CHELSEA-7

 

Achilles Chelsea then became an interest to the Germans where groups of officers and panzer crews examined it with interest.  At the time, the Germans were not familiar with the Achilles, only the British Sherman Firefly which was also armed with the same 17 pounder gun and the Germans often mis-identified the Achilles.

 

This well known Bundesarchiv photo (Bild 101I-299-1818-05) has been published many times.  Oberleutnant Schmidt, CO of the 1. Kompanie, Panzer-regiment 22, is pointing at the shell holes that penetrated the side of the turret.   The photographer must had been standing in front of the knocked out PzKpfw IV to take this photo.

CHELSEA-8

CHELSEA-9

 

This is my close up of the 3 turret hits.  Note the shell hole on the side of the turret mantlet just below the lifting ring.

CHELSEA-9A

 

Schmidt and crewman on Achilles Chelsea examining the shell holes in the turret.  The remains of a crewman was still in the Achilles when these photos were taken.

CHELSEA-10

CHELSEA-11

 

Then Achilles Chelsea appeared in the German propaganda media.  It appeared briefly in German propaganda film Die Deutsche Wochenschau 6 July 1944.

CHELSEA-12

 

Photos of Achilles Chelsea appeared in German propaganda magazine Die Wehrmacht, issue number 15, 19 July 1944.

German propaganda described the engagement (in German) as this:

West, Duel at eight meters. In the area of Caen, a singularly unique tank duel took place, the end of which is reported by these images.  A German tank, type Panzer IV, and one English “General Sherman” unexpectedly came face-to-face with each other in a forest, when both opened fire simultaneously, at a distance of only eight meters.  For the two adversaries, the duel had an mortal conclusion: for the “General Sherman” as well as the Panzer IV.

(“West” is referring to the western front.)

 

Not able to find any information on this engagement.  It is very unlikely that these two simultaneously knocked out each other.  There are a number of possible scenarios which could leave them in those positions and Achilles Chelsea most likely was not attacking alone at the time of the engagement.

 


18 July 1944 Operation Goodwood

The British launched Operation Goodwood with the objective to complete the capture of Caen.  This photo have been taken on July 18 or later after the area was retaken by the British.  Three British soldiers were killed/wounded by mines and booby traps around the two knocked out vehicles.

 

Note that the Achilles is missing its front fenders, tow cable and the spare road wheels.  The crewman remains was finally removed from the vehicle.

CHELSEA-13

CHELSEA-14

 

This photo shows the front of the destroyed PzKpfw IV on the road near Achilles Chelsea. Note that the PzKpfw IV has no shell hits in its front armour.

CHELSEA-15

 

The red dot and circle marks the approximate location today.

CHELSEA-16
CHELSEA-17

 

This is the view down the same road today and the post position (most likely not the same post from 1944) can be seen on the right.

CHELSEA-18

CHELSEA-19

 

This is the view on the road facing east and the intersection can be seen in the background.

CHELSEA-20

 

 

Thats_all_Folks

8 thoughts on “M10 Achilles Chelsea

  1. Hi Mike, can you contact me please. i have a original british map with original card inside. the point ” Le Pré Baron” from your research is crossed with pencil on my map, also a place on the coastline left from quistreham. Maybe possible to know who the card belonged to. regards Peter

    Like

  2. Hi! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I genuinely enjoy reading through your posts. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the same topics? Appreciate it!

    Like

  3. My Granddad served under 62A-T.Rgt. when it was deployed at the S-W of the Netherlands in Nov.1944 to March 1945 in III./Netherlands Interior Forces Commando Brabant.(9-14.Coy). Their home base was Tholen Island,but they also change shifts and were deployed from Tholen Island to Moerdijk.
    Do you have info of that period? In particular 247Bty.

    Like

  4. my father served with 245 battery 62nd anti tank regiment as a gunner driver from juno beach till emb NWE for uk 12/12/45, having becoming a casualty admitted to 35ccs and 50 fds 19/07/1944. Would be grateful for any info on the Regiment

    Like

  5. June 5 :Tilbury – Juno Beach
    June 7 : Disembark Greye-sur-Mere, Reviers-Tailleville road.3.Brit.Div-6.Brit.Air.Div.
    July 8 : Operation ‘Charnwood’ Canadian Sector , Caen.
    07:30h : A-B Troop 8x M10’s Les Buisson – Buron ( H.L.I of Canada Rgt.),
    6x M10’s OoA (4x recovered) 6KIA, 6WIA.
    3x M10’s Buron- to left of Authie (Novia Scotia Highl.Rgt.)
    ? : C-Troop 4x M10’s Cussy (Canadian Scot.Rgt.)

    Do you also want info about 62A-T.Rgt during Nov.1944 to March 1945 at Zeeland and S-W.Brabant (The Netherlands) ?

    Like

  6. Hi Richard, thanks for reply. The other information would be a great help. I knew my father was in station in Breda but not the troop.

    Like

  7. Hi David,
    245Bty was stationed at St.Philipsland,but it also changed shifts so sometimes relocated.
    Stavenisse to Moerdijk is a stretch of about 60Km’s.
    And it was actually the outer tip of the Western Front.
    St.Philipsland was a peninsula,but is now part of Tholen Island.
    Now the following data are rough estimations.

    November 13 1944 First two Bty’s of 62A-T.Rgt. came under command of 18.CAR (XII.Mantiba Dragoons)
    One at Tholen Island and one at Willemstad.
    The ‘Orde Dienst-Tholen at that time was about 200 men
    The ‘Orde-Dienst-St.Philipsland at that time about 70 men and resided under OD-Tholen.

    62A-T.Rgt. and 18.CAR were deployed at the most vital points.
    The rest was for the Resistance groups to guard.
    Most of them were barely armed in civilian and dressed kin war torn surrogate clothing and had to make due to what could get,as nothing was issued on the Dutch Govermental (Exiled in London) orders.
    Only during the Battle of the Bulge when all went into an alarmfase the Commander of 62A-T.Rgt provided them (most likely against those orders) with emergency food rations.
    There were a lot of problems to the fact that most of Tholen Island and St.Philipsland were flooded and sufficient protected wear like shoes or fuel for cooking or warm themselves was not available.
    Hence the expression ‘Guarding the outertip of the Western Front on wooden shoes with pitchforks’.

    On December 16 to 22 1944 62A-T.Rgt first came under command of 22.CAR ( Canadian Grendier Guards ) as Brit.I Corps was underwent a major reorganastion.
    Then 62.A-T.Rgt under command of 1.Polish Armoured Division.
    On januari 1 1945 the Resistance Groups went over into 9-14.Coy’s of III.Btl./Netherlands Interior Forces of the regular Dutch Army that was raised.
    Bare in mind that that didn’t change a lot for them as the Germans didn’t recognize them as Soldiars.
    If caught interogation,torture and execution was there faith as they were still seen as citizens of the Third Reich and Allied collaberators.

    At Tholen Island 9.Coy. of the III./ Btl.Netherlands Interior Forces ‘Commando Brabant’ was under command of 247Bty.
    At St.Pilipsland 10.Coy. of the III./Netherlands Interior Forces ‘Commando Brabant’ came under command of 245Bty.

    The Germans planned an simultanious attack to form a pincer movement during the ‘Bulge’ but it never happend most likely because of their fuel shortage.
    See Fall ‘Braun’ / operation ‘Brown’.

    There were several German raids on the ‘tip’ and casualties.

    February 19 1945 9.Coy. of the III.Btl./Netherlands Interior Forces ‘Commando Brabant’ were assembled at Tholen City were the were demobed and sent home.
    Never to hear from it again.
    Only one casualty of a raid at Stavenisse received the Dutch ‘Resistance Cross’ by mail in 1991.

    I don’t know if 10.Coy or the other Coy’s had a simular faith.
    What I do know is that there is no mentioning about them in history books and there is hardly any info.

    Here is footage of the OD-Tholen ferrying some +18 POW’s from Tholen City to Canadian lines at Halsteren and handing them over to 4.Canadian Armoured Division.
    You can clearly see one para of Parachute Regiment 6 still wearing his smock.
    And one with a dotted smock moving around like an Officer.
    He is either most likely of Parachute Training and Replacement Regiment Hermann Göring or of the SS.17.th or 18.th Artillery Training Regiment that operated as 2nd Artillery Battery for Kampfgruppe Chill.
    Some 50 to 70 POW’s must have been handed over that way.
    All were a collaberate result of the OD-Groups Tholen,Halsteren,Lepelstraat,Steenbergen and St.Philipsland.
    And all of them were taken behind enemy lines.
    Battle Group Chill was a small Special Forces unit that was the most succesfull one at the Western Front.
    And was responsable for over 1/3 of ALL Allied causualties west of ‘Hell’s Highway’ to Beeringen along the Albert Canal to Massenhoven (Antwerp) to Woensdrecht County to Willemstad.
    Between September 4 and November 9 1944.

    Film: De laatste Duitsers verlaten Tholen, bevrijding Tholen

    I suggest you contact :

    Archieves Tholen : https://archieftholen.nl/

    Maczekmuseum Breda : info@maczekmuseum.nl

    Sincerely
    Richard
    richard.binkhuysen@gmail.com

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s